What looks like a straight forward Europa League fixture for Manchester United might not be so…
Not many would have heard the Austrian side’s name crop up in mainstream football and in all fairness, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are red-hot favourites to reach the quarter-finals. However, any measure of complacency could turn out to be counter productive against a team that has the potential to cause an upset.
They are currently fighting for the championship in the Austrian top division with Red Bull Salzburg and are already six points ahead of their rivals. This is the same Salzburg side who caused problems for the likes of Liverpool and Napoli in the UEFA Champions League this season.
LASK are also in terrific form in the Europa League, dropping down after being knocked out in the Champions League play-offs at the start of the season. Their form graph certainly does not make for good reading, if you are a Manchester United fan.
LASK are a club who were languishing in the second division at the start of the last decade and were embroiled in financial difficulties. After demotion to the third division in 2013, LASK made a comeback after a takeover.
However, they reached the Austrian Bundesliga, the country’s top division’ only in 2016-17 and have not looked back. They finished second in the league last season and appointed former Bayern Munich player Valerien Ismael as the coach at the start of the ongoing campaign. The Frenchman has had a terrific start to his stint at LASK, leading them successfully through the Europa League group stages.
In fact, LASK took 13 points from a tough group and finished top ahead of PSV against whom they took four points from two games. Rosenborg were beaten home and away and Sporting CP were thrashed 3-0 at home.
Then they went on to ease past AZ Alkmaar of Netherlands, drawing the away leg 1-1 before beating them 2-0 at home. It was the first time the club had made it this far in the Europa League.
Interestingly, LASK’s home ground – Waldstadion in Pasching – does not meet UEFA requirements and their continental games are held at Linz stadium. But they are yet to lose at ‘home’ in Europa League this season!
The danger man for LASK is Austrian striker Marko Raguz. The pacy forward will be a huge threat for Man United’s backline, having scored five goals in eight appearances in the Europa League so far. Also carrying a threat will be Samuel Tetteh, the boyhood Man United fan currently on loan from Salzburg. Harry Maguire and co. also need to keep an eye out for attacking midfielder Thomas Goiginger who has five goals and three assists to his name in the Austrian Bundesliga.
To put things in perspective, LASK have lost just once in their last 16 league games. In eight games in the Europa League, they lost just once. In short, this is a team that has ability and has made winning a habit. Manchester United can expect a fight from the Austrian league leaders, if nothing else!
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